‘Voices from the ‘Jungle” Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp

To coincide with the publication of Voices from the ‘Jungle’, we present a blog, introduced by one of the book’s editors, Katrine Møller Hansen, and accompanied by the voices of the book’s authors: the Calais Writers.

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This book brings together the personal stories of people who lived as refugees, during 2015 and 2016, in the Calais camp on the northern French coast, just 26 miles from the UK: a camp that was often called the ‘Jungle’. For the authors, that have all left behind CalaiswritersT03221loved ones and a place of belonging, the ‘Jungle’ became home for a short or a longer time. Through poetry, prose poems, diary entries, photography, drawings and conventional accounts they narrate their personal experiences, life stories and they imagine the lives that lie ahead of them. We hear about the borders – geographical, national, cultural and religious – they have crossed, drawn or dissolved on their journeys and in their search for better and safer futures.

The authors want their voices to be heard and they call for audiences willing to listen. Aware that they are becoming objects of distrust and fear and that they have been depicted as benefit cheats, criminals and terrorists, they take control in this book, of their own representation. However, they do not speak in unison. Differences in opinion appear and the stories may ‘disagree’ with each other. Through such conversations, the book displays the human face of the current world crisis. This implies a multiplicity of truths and life trajectories rather than one homogenic narrative or life story. Their collective voices negotiate what it means to belong and to be human and their stories may resonate with any reader that queries into the human consequences of the displacements and human rights violations we witness today.

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The Marikana Massacre: The government that pulled the trigger and the workers who survived it

Revivifying what are only recent memories of massacres by the state during the apartheid era, the Marikana massacre occurred on 16th August 2012, when policemen shot down 112 striking mineworkers, killing 34. Resistance by the ANC and the press to label the incident a massacre (‘Marikana shootings’ was the preferred terminology) at once exposed the easy analogy between Marikana and previous mass shootings at Sharpeville or Soweto, the fraughtness of South Africa’s difficult reckoning with its past, and how violence and the covering up of violence remains an intrinsic part of South Africa’s political structures and institutions.

Luke Sinwell, co-author of The Spirit of Marikana  a fascinating recent history of post-Apartheid South Africa, emphasising the crucial role of workers in changing history – has written here about the fight for justice by the workers that survived the massacre and the prosecution of 72 police for their role in the events.

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The recent decision taken by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to prosecute 72 police for their role in the events related to South Africa’s Marikana massacre is welcome, but it may obscure the truth that the African National Congress (ANC) government pulled the trigger. The Sprit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism tells the story of the agency of those workers who survived it.

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Israel, Migrants and the right to nationhood

Mya Guarnieri Jaradat’s new book, The Unchosenexamines Israel’s harsh and worsening treatment of these newcomers and in doing so presents a fresh angle on the Israel-Palestine conflict, calling into question the state’s perennial justification for mistreatment of Palestinians: ‘national security’. As we stand witness to mass deportations and charter flights, Guarnieri Jaradat’s blog forces us to confront the exclusionary and dispassionate preconditions imposed on those seeking to belong to a nation.

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The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others, is a culmination of a decade’s worth of reporting on the lives of Southeast Asian migrant workers and African asylum seekers protest, Tel Aviv, Israel, 13.2.2014African asylum seekers in Israel. Studying these two groups of non-Jewish ‘others’ throws the Israeli claim that its treatment of Palestinians is predicated on security into harsh light; rather, it shows that Israel’s relationship with Palestinians and other non-Jews is predicated on racial separatism and couched in its overriding concern about maintaining a Jewish demographic majority. The treatment of non-Jews can be understood as a feature of Israel’s particular brand of settler
colonialism. Put best by Drs. Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini in their book, The Human Right to Dominate:

‘Not unlike other forms of settler colonialism, in the Israeli case colonial power is exerted also through the coloniser’s desire of appropriating the position of the native, of “going native.” … the coloniser’s nativeness can, so to speak, be achieved only through a twofold process, beginning with the dispossession of the colonised and followed by protecting the coloniser from a presumed invasion carried out by the colonised.’

The initial dispossession, happened in 1948 with the displacement of some 700,000 Palestinians. As for the ‘invasion’, many Israelis imagine this happening not militarily but demographically; they worry that they’ll be outnumbered. In recent years, the Israeli obsession with demographics—which Dr. Tally Kritzman-Amir, an Israeli lecturer and legal expert in immigration, refugee, and international law, refers to as the ‘fear of numbers’—has been extended beyond the indigenous population to non-Jews in general. Separation is one manifestation of this ‘fear of numbers.’

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‘Feminism is for Everybody’ bell hooks for International Woman’s Day

bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody is the antidote to every ‘when’s international men’s day?!’ tweet. Designed to be read by all genders, this short, accessible introduction to feminist theory, by one of its liveliest and most influential practitioners, seeks to rescue feminism from esoterism and academic jargon; simplifying, arguing and convincing.

 

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Everywhere I go I proudly tell folks who want to know who I am and what I do that I am a writer, a feminist theorist, a cultural critic. I tell them I write about movies and popular culture, analysing the message in the medium. Most people find this exciting and want to know more. Everyone goes to movies, watches television, glances through magazines, and everyone has thoughts about the messages they receive, about the images they look at. It is easy for the diverse public I encounter to understand what I do as a cultural critic, to understand my passion for writing (lots of folks want to write, and do). But feminist theory — that’s the place where the questions stop. In- stead I tend to hear all about the evil of feminism and the bad feminists: how “they” hate men; how “they” want to go against nature — and god; how “they” are all lesbians; how “they” are taking all the jobs and making the world hard for white men, who do not stand a chance. When I ask these same folks about the feminist books or magazines they read, when I ask them about the feminist talks they have heard, about the feminist activists they know, they respond by let- ting me know that everything they know about feminism has come into their lives thirdhand, that they really have not come close enough to feminist movement to know what really happens, what it’s really about. Mostly they think feminism is a bunch of angry women who want to be like men. They do not even think about feminism as being about rights — about women gaining equal rights. When I talk about the feminism I know — up close and personal — they willingly listen, although when our conversations end, they are quick to tell me I am different, not like the “real” feminists who hate men, who are angry. I assure them I am as a real and as radical a feminist as one can be, and if they dare to come closer to feminism they will see it is not how they have imagined it.

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Dry Your Eyes and Organise! A Pluto Press reading list

With the election of Donald Trump it’s time for the left to take action! We cannot and will not let racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism be legitimised and normalised. Here are our list of books to arm yourself against the rise of proto-fascism!

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THEORY:

Using Gramsci: A New Approach by Michele Filippinifilippini-t02985

Released this month, Michele Filippini proposes a new approach based on the analysis of previously ignored concepts in his works, creating a book which stands apart. Look on Wikiquote and you won’t unearth Antonio Gramsci’s much-quoted dictum ‘I love the poorly educated’. Gramsci stressed the need for popular workers’ education to encourage development of intellectuals from the working class. His work sought to reveal, rather than obscure; through his writing we come to understand how hegemony is produced, likewise ideology, how civil society functions and what constitutes collective organisms, society and crisis. In this time of crisis, we need Filippini’s rigorous reappraisal of Gramsci’s work to better understand the political machinations we encounter.

Racism: A Critical Analysis by Mike Cole

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Racism traces the legacy of racism across three countries in-depth: the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. In examining the United States, Cole charts the dual legacies of indigenous genocide and slavery, as well as exploring anti-Latina/o and anti-Asian racism. As we contemplate histories of racism, Cole asks us to re-engage with arguments about the central role of capitalism in perpetuating the most vicious of inequalities. Anxieties about migrant labour and the dilution of ‘authentic’ – read White – American culture the election landscape. However Cole distances himself from the liberal platitiudes of ‘Love Trumps Hate’, instead showing that racism is both endemic and multifaceted and not solvable by the election of a Democratic candidate. This book serves as an important reminder of the need to take a long view as we renew our shared struggle against the racism still scarring human lives across the globe.

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks

In Feminist Theory, hooks maintains that mainstream feminism’s reliance on white, middle-class, and professional spokeswomen obscures the involvement, leadership, and centrality of women of colour and poor women in the hooks-t00702movement for women’s liberation. The campaign of Hillary Clinton relied too heavily on false assumptions about identity politics, it presumed a universal experience of womanhood, embodied by Clinton, which was not substantiated by most American women’s lived experiences. Failing acknowledge the full complexity and diversity of women’s experience, in order to create a mass movement to end women’s oppression resulted in the election of a sexist tyrant. Hooks argues that feminism’s goal of seeking credibility and acceptance on already existing ground – rather than demanding the lasting and more fundamental transformation of society – has shortchanged the movement. In order to resist and fight towards an equal world for women we must conceive of a society outside of the confines of the patriarchal pre-existing one. Let’s follow hooks to the letter, her writing established her as one of feminism’s most challenging and influential voices and it could not be more necessary, urgent and relevant.

After Queer Theory: The Limits of Sexual Politics by James Penneypenney-t02732

After Queer Theory is predicated on the provocative claim that queer theory has run its course, made obsolete by the elaboration of its own logic within capitalism. James Penney argues that far from signalling the end of anti-homophobic criticism, however, the end of queer presents the occasion to rethink the relation between sexuality and politics. The regressive homophobia of the American election suggests that queer politics subsumption into mainstream political discourse was in vain, queer politics finds itself at a critical juncture. After Queer Theory argues that it is necessary to wrest sexuality from the dead end of identity politics, opening it up to a universal emancipatory struggle beyond the reach of capitalism’s powers of commodification.

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We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism by cox-t02839Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen

We live in the twilight of neoliberalism: the failed election of another Clinton president proves that the ruling classes can no longer rule as before, and ordinary people are no longer willing to be ruled in the old way. Pursued by global elites since the 1970s, neoliberalism is defined by dispossession and ever-increasing inequality. The refusal to continue to be ruled like this appears in an arc of resistance stretching from rural India to North America. Written prior to Trump’s election, Cox and Nilsen’s emphasis lies with left wing movements, but this should not be read as a disconnected from our present reality, instead because the book shows how movements can develop from local conflicts to global struggles; how neoliberalism operates as a social movement from above, and how popular struggles can create new worlds from below, the book is a guide to resisting the current crisis.

Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today by  John Holloway

‘The concept of revolution itself is in crisis’, writes John Holloway, difficult to eshew when the word has foundholloway-t01965 itself in the mouths of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. In this book, John Holloway asks how we can reformulate our understanding of revolution as the struggle against power, not for power. Modern protest movements ground their actions in both Marxism and Anarchism, fighting for radical social change in terms that have nothing to do with the taking of state power. This is in clear opposition to the traditional Marxist theory of revolution which centres on the overthrow of government. Holloway reposes some of the basic concepts of Marxism in a critical development of the subversive Marxist tradition represented by Adorno, Bloch and Lukacs, amongst others, and grounded in a rethinking of Marx’s concept of ‘fetishisation’– how doing is transformed into being. This radical rethinking demonstrates how we can bring about social and political change today.

Common Ground: Democracy and Collectivity in an Age of Individualism by Jeremy Gilbert

Common Ground explores the philosophical relationship between collectivity, individuality, gilbert-t01517affect and agency in the neoliberal era. Jeremy Gilbert argues that individualism is forced upon us by neoliberal culture, fatally limiting our capacity to escape the current crisis of democratic politics. The book asks how forces and ideas opposed to neoliberal hegemony, and to the individualist tradition in Western thought, might serve to protect some form of communality, and how far we must accept assumptions about the nature of individuality and collectivity which are the legacy of an elitist tradition. Along the way it examines different ideas and practices of collectivity, from conservative notions of hierarchical and patriarchal communities to the politics of ‘horizontality’ and ‘the commons’ which are at the heart of radical movements today. Exploring this fundamental faultline in contemporary political struggle, Common Ground proposes a radically non-individualist mode of imagining social life, collective creativity and democratic possibility.

Solidarity without Borders: Gramscian Perspectives on Migration and Civil Society Alliances edited by Óscar García Agustín and Martin Bak Jørgensen

This book presents an argument for Gramsci’s theory of the formation of a transnational agustin-t03061counter-hegemonic bloc, methods of modern resistance and new forms of solidarity between these forming groups. With case studies of the Gezi Park Protests in Turkey, social movements in Ireland and the Lampedusa in Hamburg among others, the argument is explored via national contexts and structured around political dimensions.

Four themes are discussed: the diversity of new migrant political actors; solidarity and new alliances across borders; avoiding misplaced alliances; and spaces of resistance. Migrants are often deprived of agency and placed outside the mobilisations taking place across Europe. Solidarity without Borders will demonstrate how new solidarity relations are shaped and how these may construct a new common ground for struggle and for developing the political alternatives we will desperately need over the coming four years.

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All books are available from the Pluto website

 

The Life of W.E.B. Du Bois and Black Lives Matter

In this essay, Bill Mullen, author of the forthcoming W.E.B. DuBois biography Revolutionary Across the Colour Line, considers the historical precedence set by DuBois’ thought. This survey of DuBois’ radicalism (evidenced in his advocating of the redistribution of public wealth, his alignment with Pan Africanism and solidarity with working class movements worldwide) allows us to contextualise the political motivations of the Black Lives coalition network, following the recent publication of their agenda. 

Mullen WDBJust weeks ago the Movement for Black Lives in the U.S. released its political platform.  The six-part document called for a wide range of reforms of American capitalism: a universal health care system; a constitutional right to free higher education; cuts in military expenditures and re-investment in local infrastructures; a progressive restructuring of tax codes to ‘ensure and radical and equitable redistribution of wealth;’ a guarantee of the right of workers to organise. The document also called for the demilitarisation of U.S. police, an end to capital punishment, and the end of surveillance of Black communities by law enforcement.1

The Movement for Black Lives platform is a document the late W.E.B. Du Bois would have would have proudly endorsed.  Indeed, in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, Du Bois published in the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper The Atlanta Creed, a bullet point program for Black equality and liberation.  The ‘Creed’ called for ‘Business for Public Welfare, and not for Private Profit;’ ‘No monopoly of land, materials, or machines in private hands;’ ‘Political power not for jobs but for public recognition of the Negro’s right to share equally and proportionally in all public expenditures; for protecting all labour in wage and work; and for redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor through taxation and nationalisation.’ Most boldly, Du Bois called for Socialism: ‘We believe in the ultimate triumph of some form of Socialism the world over; that is, state ownership and control of the means of production, and equality of income; we believe that the ultimate power in the state should rest in the hands of those who work, and that the state should be ruled by them.’2

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Britain is a Country not a Race

Jamaican ImmigrantsSome people seem confused as to what Britain “is”. Today we are highlighting books that offer an alternative perspective on British history and British identity.

When a UKIP candidate recently told Lenny Henry that he should “emigrate to a black country” the mainstream political establishment was quick to repudiate his comments. The Health Secretary, acting no-doubt as the mouthpiece for the Coalition front bench, described the comments as “absolutely disgusting” and said that “Henry is as British as you and I are” – interestingly, however, he did not specifically attack the notion that Britain is a “white country” (presumably the polls are not yet in on how that would play out with the Tory grassroots; let’s not forget we’re only a generation or so removed from Peter Griffiths controversial, and successful, 1964 election slogan).

We here at Pluto abhor racism of any kind and, more importantly, reject the idea that Britain ought to be considered a country with a race attached to it – even if it is a state overwhelmingly governed in the interests of one (a fact we also abhor). The term “Britain” is geographic and when we talk about the British Isles we are talking about a history which has been, at least for the last half millennia, multi-racial. Describing it as “white” even “predominantly white” can only be exclusionary and racist.

So why do we persist in doing so?

The problem, of course, is that history is taught to us within the framework of a state system which has never hesitated to play favourites. As Maya Goodfellow argues today over at New Left Project:

‘This (mis)remembering of Empire, paired with the downplaying of other peoples’ histories, shapes the way minority ethnic people are seen in contemporary Britain. Many within British society continue to believe the folkloric retelling of Empire, which propagates their belief of Britain’s greatness, where great is equated with white people’s superiority over the ‘other’. Consequently, judged against the backdrop of colonialism, minority ethic people continue to be seen as inferior to ‘civilised’, white Britons.’

A major cause of this problem is the identity of those who teach us history. As the Observer has recently reported, “just 17.2% of black African applicants, and 28.7% of black Caribbean applicants were taken on by teacher training institutions across all subjects, against 46.7% of white applicants” and the picture becomes considerably bleaker in the field of history where “only three black people who want to be history teachers were accepted on postgraduate teacher training courses last year”.

Clearly, if we want to learn the real history of Britain, and be able to teach it to our children, we will have to educate ourselves. As a radical publisher our role in that is making books available which consider British history from a non-white perspective as a reminder to our fellow Britons of the diversity which is at the heart of what it means, and will always mean, to be British. There are, of course, too many to mention – which is precisely the point – but we can highlight just two that we think ought to be required reading for every British citizen: Peter Fryer’s Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain and Rozina Visram’s Asians In Britain: 400 Years of History.

Pluto first published Staying Power in 1984 to near universal acclaim. Though Fryer himself was white, his book was widely celebrated by such luminaries as CLR James (“Fryer never loses his grip in time or place”), Salman Rushdie (“Mr. Fryer has my deep gratitude”) and Paul Gilroy, who wrote an introduction to the 2010 edition (“Staying Power is a special book. It has to be recognized as something of a historical phenomenon in its own right”). The reason for the books potency was Fryer’s close involvement in solidarity movements with Britain’s black community, which began as early as 1948 when, fittingly, he covered the arrival of Jamaican workers on the Empire Windrush.

Throughout the writing of Staying Power, Fryer attempted to give voice to individuals who had been excluded from the orthodox (see: racist) writing of history and also emphasized the necessarily internationalist dimension of radical black thought in Britain. The book’s voluminous appendix includes many previous unavailable sources reprinted in full, such as the stirring 1918 inaugural address to the African Progress Union by John Archer – London’s first black Mayor – which called not just for domestic freedoms for black people but also for African independence and self-determination decades before such notions became ‘fashionable’ among guilty white intelligentsia:

‘Too long, much too long, has the Negro race suffered. ‘Mislike me not for my complexion, the shadowed livery of the burnished sun.’ Why should he suffer because of that shadowed livery? As the Prince of Morocco [in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice] pleaded to Portia, so the Negroes of today plead. … [The First World War was], we have been repeatedly told, for the self-determination of small nations and the freedom of the world from the despotism of German rule. The truth of that statement will be proved by the way they deal in America with Afro-Americans, in France with their Negro subjects, in Belgium with their Congo subjects, and in Great Britain with India, Africa and the West Indies. … The children of the white race to-day owe a great debt still to the children of the darker race.’

It was towards the paying of that debt that Fryer submitted his manuscript to Pluto, headed as it was with a quotation from CLR James’ equally formidable work of history Black Jacobins:

‘The blacks will know as friends only those whites who are fighting in the ranks beside them. And whites will be there.’

But, of course, it is not just black people of African and West Indian descent who are excluded from the orthodox history of Britain – the British Asian community’s independent history in Britain begins as early as 1616, a fact often neglected in those Oxbridge histories where persons of Asian descent appear only as subjects of colonial rule. A formidable remedy to this neglect is Rozina Visram’s Asians In Britain: 400 Years of History, first published by Pluto in 2002, and which was immediately recognised by the Times Literary Supplement for its “painstaking research” and force of exposition. As Visram explains in her introduction to the book:

‘Scholars have tended to underestimate the significant presence of Asians and their contributions to British society, and the perception that their settlement in Britain dates from the 1950s persists … The mass of [new] material uncovered has enabled me to trace the history of peoples from South Asia in Britain from 1600, when trading contact between Britain and India first began with the founding of the East India Company. An empirical study, the book examines the nature of Asian settlement, official attitudes to their migration, the varied reactions of the British people to their presence and the differing responses of the Asians themselves … The book also examines the anti-colonial struggle by Asians and their allies in Britain, Asian contributions to British society as well as their role in two world wars.’

If you are serious about history or about Britain then we hope you will read, or re-read, these books and the many, many others – not just those we have published but such classics as Paul Gilroy’s There Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack or Harris & James’ Inside Babylon – which directly challenge the notion of Britain as anything other than a “country” full stop, albeit one which is arguably governed by a racist system of power that seeks to present history from an ideological perspective.